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X-ray safety is important because X-rays can cause mutations in our DNA and, therefore, might lead to cancer later in life.

An X-ray is a penetrating form of high-energy electromagnetic radiation. Most X-rays have a wavelength ranging from 10 picometers to 10 nanometers, corresponding to frequencies in the range 30 petahertz to 30 exahertz (30×1015 Hz to 30×1018 Hz) and energies in the range 124 eV to 124 keV. X-ray wavelengths are shorter than those of UV rays and typically longer than those of gamma rays. 

X-­rays are not visible but can be detected with a radiation counter calibrated for the particular wavelength. 

X-rays can be generated by an X-ray tube, a vacuum tube that uses a high voltage to accelerate the electrons released by a hot cathode to a high velocity. The high velocity electrons collide with a metal target, the anode, creating the X-rays.

X-rays are also created in nature by lightning accompanying terrestrial gamma-ray flashes.

Consequently, X-rays are classified as a carcinogen by both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States government. However, the benefits of X-ray technology far outweigh the potential negative consequences of using them.

It is estimated that 0.4% of cancers in the U.S. are caused by CT scans. Some scientists expect this level to rise in parallel with the increased use of CT scans in medical procedures.

According to one study, by the age of 75 years, X-rays will increase the risk of cancer by 0.6% to 1.8%. The risks, therefore, are thought of as minimal compared to the benefits of medical imaging.

Besides their use in medicine, X-rays are also used in engineering. For example, manufacturers use industrial radiography to check for cracks or flaws in materials. Industrial radiography uses X-ray and gamma radiation to show flaws that cannot be detected by the naked eye.

The avoidance of X-ray exposure relies on x-ray safety engineering controls including shielding, mechanical and electrical interlocking.

Want to learn more? Tonex offers X-Ray Safety Training, a 2-day general awareness course describing the nature of electromagnetic radiation (EM), X-rays and hazards, radiation protection, regulations, FDA guidelines, safety engineering principles, risk analysis, biological effects of radiation exposure, mitigation and radiation shielding. Other EM radiation non-ionizing such as radio, infrared, visible, and ultraviolet are also discussed and compared with X-rays.

For more information, questions, comments, contact us.

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